Hydration and Nutrition

By Dr. A.J. Nelson

The subject of this article is the dilemma of hydration and nutrition for Ogden…..the dilemma is having enough energy to get to Ogden, and get to the train on time.

The average trained cyclist has enough fuel in his muscles for about 2 hours. This is enough to get you between the first and second food stop.

1). Start With A Full Tank Of Fuel: Glycogen is the fuel needed by the muscles. Preparation begins the week before the ride, with carbo-loading and tapering. One article stated that carbo-loading can increase endurance by 20%.

Carbo-loading is eating a proper diet with an emphasis on carbohydrates.

Tapering is gradually tapering your training during the last week, ending with a rest day or very easy ride the day before, so carbohydrates can be stored as muscle glycogen.

Sugars: Simple carbohydrates – fruits.

Glucose: Gives immediate energy.

Starches: Complex carbohydrates – corn, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, give a longer lasting energy but do not go to the muscles as fast.

2). Topping Off The Tank: (Done At The Pre-Ride Meal): This meal needs to be individualized as we are all different. This is to ensure that it is digested and out of the stomach. Remember that fats take more time to digest and require more oxygen to be converted into usable energy. The meal should consist primarily of foods high in complex carbohydrates, eaten three and a half to four hours before the event. That means for our rides, you should have breakfast between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m. That is not acceptable to me. Solution: In our Newsletter, PowerBar, one of our sponsors, has an ad that suggests that you eat a PowerBar 30 to 60 minutes before the ride to raise and sustain your energy level. Then eat chunks of PowerBar, with water, to ensure sustained energy levels. I like this idea, and have found it effective and acceptable. Drink 1 or 2 glasses of water with the PowerBar. PowerBars supply both simple and complex carbohydrates.

3). Keeping The Tank Topped Off With Energy For The Finish: Start eating and drinking immediately upon starting the ride. You need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. A PowerBar has 45 grams of carbohydrate, 18 grams are sugar for fast energy. You need at least one to two bottles of water per hour. Vigorous exercise suppresses the thirst mechanism making it difficult to replace fluid loss without a plan. One article stated that marathon runners may lose 13 to 14% of their total body water through sweat. The evaporation of sweat from the skin is part of the body’s natural cooling system and helps to prevent heatstroke. So keep drinking one to two bottles of water per hour, so you can sweat enough to keep cool. Many of our ultra endurance riders have found that energy drinks are effective in replacing fluids, carbohydrates, and salts that you lose in sweat. If you are dehydrated, water is the best and fastest way to hydrate. Sometimes when you drink a concentrated solution of glucose, it will upset your stomach. I keep an energy drink in my water bottle and I sip it frequently, following each sip with sips of water from my Camelbak. I cut PowerBars into quarters and eat them frequently on the ride. When I roll into a food stop I hit the energy drink first, then top off my Camelbak, eat fruit and one cookie, (complex carbohydrate, you know) and get out of there as fast as I can, before my muscles start to tighten up. This goes for the lunch stop, as well. Then I pig out after the ride! So, keep eating and drinking throughout the ride, using good judgment.

4). Refilling The Tank After The Event: This is VERY important, especially if you are going to ride the next day. While we are riding, our body tries to deliver the fuel to the muscles as quickly and efficiently as possible for energy. This effect lasts for about two hours, so you have a two hour window of opportunity to pig out after the ride. Most articles have suggested 50+ grams of carbohydrate. This tops off the tank so you have energy to use the next day.

5). Other Thoughts: Alcohol effects your muscles for about 36 hours. It weakens them, so no wine or beer with the spaghetti the night before. If you are dehydrated after a ride, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds like Motrin, Aleve, Tylenol, etc. can damage the kidneys. Be sure you drink plenty of fluids if you choose to use something for those aching body parts.